Shoulder Replacement Surgery Recovery: What to Expect

Recovery from shoulder replacement surgery is a very important aspect of treatment. Your orthopaedic surgeon takes great care to ensure a successful surgery. Further, as the patient, it is your job to participate actively in your recovery process.

If you are considering a total shoulder replacement surgery, you will likely be researching many aspects of the procedure. You will take your time to pick out a skilled, experienced orthopaedic surgeon. But beyond the actual procedure, it is essential to understand what the weeks and months following your procedure will look like.

Timeline for recovery

Each patient is very unique in terms of their injury and overall health. Factors such as age, nutrition, physical activity level and daily routine will impact your recovery process. Therefore, please consult with your orthopaedic surgeon about a more personalized breakdown of recovery from shoulder replacement surgery. The following timeline is a general summary of what to expect during your recovery.

Day of surgery

  • You will begin an antibiotic to prevent infection.
  • Arm will likely be numb for the rest of the day as a side effect of anesthesia, providing good pain relief initially.
  • You will move from surgery to a recovery room for a few hours and then to a hospital room.
  • You will begin using ice or a cooling device to reduce swelling.

First week of recovery

  • You will possibly have bruising in your arm and hand.
  • You will most likely be discharged 1-2 days following surgery. Some patients may even be released the same day if surgery is at an outpatient center.
  • You will be prescribed physical therapy exercises to begin at some point during the first two weeks. Be sure to do these as directed.
  • Arrange to have someone like a friend or family member assist you with tasks around the house. Bathing, getting dressed and doing basic chores at home will be very difficult for the first week.
  • Manage your pain symptoms only as directed by your physician.

Second through fifth week of recovery

  • Staples will be removed between 10-14 days post-surgery, if you have them. This will take place in a follow-up visit with your doctor.
  • Avoid getting your wound area wet until it has fully sealed.
  • Avoid using your healing arm to lift anything  over a few pounds. Check with your physician about specific weight limitations.
  • Your arm will still be in a sling for support but you will be able to start doing household tasks.
  • You will be unable to drive, unless cleared early by your doctor.

Week six of recovery

  • You will likely feel pain during activities or while your arm is at rest. Consult with your doctor about your specific pain level and best plan for managing pain.
  • Continue with physical therapy exercises.
  • Listen to your body and avoid doing any activities that increase pain in your healing arm.
  • You will likely be able to drive.

Three months post-surgery

  • You will likely be back to doing normal activities including a moderate workout routine, as cleared by your doctor.
  • Your pain will be very minimal.
  • Your range of motion will be greatly improved.

Six months post-surgery

  • You will likely be pain free.
  • You will likely be back to your full range of motion.
  • Avoid certain strenuous activities such as pushing or lifting heavy objects, contact sports and vigorous throwing.
2 replies
  1. Jay
    Jay says:

    Thank you for the tips. I didn’t realize there was so much I could do. Thank you especially for the tip about figuring out your weight limitations. I never thought I would be able to lift things the same way again really. It is nice to know that I will.

  2. Mia Evans
    Mia Evans says:

    I appreciate that you explained how important it is to consult with the orthopedic surgeon regarding a more personalized recovery time. As you said, there could be different factors affecting the process such as nutrition, age, and daily routine. It would help my dad if he learns about this so that he can gauge the duration of his recovery time and notify other appointments if ever there are conflicts. He is nearing his retirement age, 51 to be exact, which is why his knee has been hurting a lot, lately. It’s the reason why he needs to find a professional for possible treatments or even surgeries. Thanks for the information!


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